Joseph Goebbels, the Reich Minister of Propaganda of Nazi Germany (1933 – 1945) fierily worked under the motto: “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it”.
Goebbels wasn’t the first politician in history to rely on the power of spoken words repetition in shaping attitudes and beliefs. Vladimir Lenin (communist revolutionary and Soviet Union Premier from 1922 till he died in 1924) used the technique of achieving belief in lies or half-truths as absolute truths also. His motto was: “A lie told often enough becomes truth“.
The first written trace of this abominable but powerful trend can perhaps be pinned down to the American philosopher and a father of modern Psychology William James who wrote in his work “The Will to Believe”, published by New World in 1896 these words: “There’s nothing so absurd that if you repeat it often enough, people will believe it.”
Having in mind the ICTY (Hague) judgment on 29 May 2013 against the 6 Croats from Herceg-Bosna,
which also names the late Croatian president Franjo Tudjman and his close officials (all of whom had passed away before the ICTY indictments in the case) it is absolutely essential to consider the evolution of the now seemingly accepted version (however untrue) of the story (initially spun by Stjepan Mesic, the former president of Croatia) that Croatia was an aggressor against Bosnia and Herzegovina because it’s leaders planned and executed a joint criminal enterprise in Herceg-Bosna to get rid of the Muslims there and secure the territory for Croats.
The regretful reality is that the ICTY Trial Chamber has accepted as truth the contents of the testimony that the former president of Croatia Stjepan Mesic first gave as witness for the prosecution in ICTY (in Closed/confidential session at Mesic’s/ prosecutor’s insistence!), in the case against Tihomir Blaskic from Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is of note that Mesic’s testimony was that of personal opinion, views and hearsay, which pointed the finger at Franjo Tudjman as having planned and executed a joint criminal enterprise in Herceg-Bosna with the aim to cleanse that area of Bosnian Muslims and have it all Croatian.
Stjepan Mesic spoke in his testimony of March 1991 meetings in Karadjordjevo between Franjo Tudjman and Serbia’s Slobodan Milosevic and although he, himself, was not present at these meetings (which, by the way, would be nothing unusual for any country in the world when one [Croatia] was seceding from the other [communist Yugoslavia], and Serbia was fiercely against this), he insisted that Tudjman and Milosevic had at these meetings agreed to divide Bosnia and Herzegovina between Croatia and Serbia and agreed to start the war!
Of course, since Mesic’s testimony was secret/closed/confidential it was impossible to react to it or refute it publicly at the time or any time before Tudjman’s death in 1999. Mesic used to voice the same allegations about Tudjman-Milosevic meetings publicly before and after his appearance in the Hague – all from the time when he set his eyes on Tudjman’s job, around 1992/93, and commenced a horrid campaign of vilification against Tudjman, conducting it ever since ever since. While Tudjman’s public reaction to Mesic’s ICTY testimony would have been called for, reacting to Mesic’s verbal vomit in the media prior to that time would have meant dignifying it with a reply. Gradually, though, the world media happily picked up on Mesic’s scandalous stories and opinions – it never stopped to ask the question: where is the proof other than that he said/she said, where are the minutes or notes from 1991 meetings between Tudjman and Milosevic? Certainly, there were ample statements and opinions by numerous Croatian identities refuting what Mesic and his followers were saying, but much of the world’s media decided it would run with the Mesic version – his was more scandalous and attention grabbing in the scheme of things that swelled the tides against Tudjman whom they considered a nationalist and an autocrat(!).
Needless to say the ICTY prosecution must have loved Mesic; he seemingly provided it with a “believable” framework around which it could build the theory of joint criminal enterprise and after all, Mesic was the second person in Croatia at the relevant times – so he must be credible!? (Mesic served as Prime Minister, as president of the Croatian Democratic Union/HDZ Executive Council, then Speaker of Croatian Parliament until booted out in 1994, when reportedly caught/proven a liar by many but also Tudjman.)
There is no doubt that horrible crimes were committed against Muslims (and Croats, and Serbs, I might add) during the time and across the territory of Herceg-Bosna covered by this ICTY indictment and eventual conviction on 29 May 2013. However, to reduce the perpetration of these horrid crimes to a joint criminal enterprise, to some collective guilt based on political motives as fed to the court through wild verbal testimony, and with not a shred of evidence that these 6 Croats from Herceg Bosna had committed a single one of these horrible crimes contained in the indictment, is absolutely distressing.
Setting aside the presiding Judge Antonetti’s dissenting opinion, which clearly says that joint criminal enterprise by Croatia against Muslims of Herceg-Bosna did not exist, one needs to wonder what powers are afoot in the ICTY to stamp a lie – or at least a most unsafe verbal testimony – into a truth? A striking resemblance to how Goebbels would have gone about getting lies to be adopted as truths. I shudder to think that just because Stjepan Mesic had high positions in Croatia, including being the President after Tudjman’s death, the ICTY Trial Chamber took his veracity and honesty of his words as unquestionable! It certainly appears to have done that.
So the accused and all of the convicted did not actually commit war crimes – murder, rape, wanton destruction … – but as members of the so-called joint criminal enterprise (constituted of these war crimes), according to the ICTY Trial Chamber’s judgment “ … secured personnel and coordinated the operations on the ground to carry out the crimes,” judges concluded!
Furthermore, it is absolutely scandalous that the ICTY Trial Chamber concluded that since the accused did not commit the crimes that were otherwise proven to have been committed (by someone!) it’s logical to pin these crimes against the accused and the Croatian leaders by way of participating in the joint criminal enterprise. From the Summary of Judgment: “The Accused are charged under all the forms of liability set out in Article 7 (1) of the Statute (including commission through participation in a joint criminal enterprise) and command responsibility under Article 7 (3) of the Statute. Considering the extent of the crimes charged against the six Accused and found proven by the Chamber, the Chamber finds, by a majority with the Presiding Judge dissenting, that analysing their responsibility by virtue of their participation in a joint criminal enterprise is the obvious legal approach. Consequently, the other modes of participation alleged in the Indictment have only been considered for those crimes that do not come under the joint criminal enterprise”.
“Obvious legal approach”! Can you believe this political prop and an attempt to justify the apparent painfully pathetic and unjust ways the ICTY prosecution and Trial Chamber have conducted this case!?
Obvious for whom!? It certainly isn’t obvious to me – and I bet it isn’t obvious to everyone who pursues safe verdicts in criminal justice.
Whichever way one tosses and turns the evidence from the fighting in Bosnia and Herzegovina one WILL NOT find any significant cooperation between Serb and Croatian forces in Bosnia and Herzegovina that would even provide an inkling of support for Mesic’s claims that there was the intention/agreement to divide Bosnia and Herzegovina between them! Muslims, though, seemed to have perceived themselves as being trapped between the two and their resistance was fierce. 1993 Vance Owen Peace Plan giving Croats command over areas where Muslims lived as ethnic majority would have fueled such perceptions decisively – but ICTY Trial Chamber gave no consideration to this fact! In fact, the fiction work by Mesic seems to have been more important to ICTY Trial Chamber than the sorry truth of calamitous and anger provoking interference by the international community in addressing the complex ethnic issues of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
A full ICTY Trial Chamber judgment from 29 May 2013 reportedly contains over 2,600 pages and it’s being prepared still; it was not published at the same time as its summary – extraordinary! Intending no disrespect towards the victims, I can’t wait to read the gruesome details of crimes proven to have been committed by unnamed and unknown individuals and not by those who have copped the guilty by association or motive verdict!
The verdict of joint criminal enterprise perpetrated in order to create an independent Croatian Republic of Herceg-Bosna, and eventually join it to the Republic of Croatia suggests that the very idea of secession is, in itself, now considered a criminal act! Why has the international community tolerated and accepted the created Serbian Republic within Bosnia and Herzegovina (which records all manner of war crimes, including Srebrenica genocide) since Dayton agreement of 1995!? Croatia’s, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s, Slovenia’s and Macedonian secession from former Yugoslavia during those years was not and is not considered a criminal act, so a certain domino effect of secession attempts at that time must have been expected to spill within the seceded states of former Yugoslavia and facts show that there were in fact several: Croatian Serbs with the aid of Belgrade led Yugoslav Peoples Army attempted to secede their self-proclaimed and brutalised Serb Republic of Krajina from Republic of Croatia, Serbian Republic in Bosnia and Herzegovina did the same, only with better success; Kosovo has been attempting the same – to secede or gain independence from Serbia. No one though has yet been prosecuted for the act of secession! The means to achieve secession seems to be the focal point of the ICTY prosecution, i.e. war crimes. If that is the case, and it certainly seems to be, why has the ICTY not gone after the actual individual perpetrators of those crimes? The answer could very well lie in political plots, which seem to favour one nation of people or one leader more than others – in attempts to judge history and not real criminals.
And since I’m writing about Stjepan Mesic and his public statements he has always said that individuals and not politics are responsible for war crimes and must be prosecuted – he had evidently held a different candle when he told his story to the ICTY Trial Chamber hearings.
Visiting Switzerland, Buchs, in March 1992, Stjepan Mesic was asked: Are the claims about an agreement between Tudjman and Milosevic regarding the territorial division of Bosnia and Herzegovina at all true? Mesic replied: “They are not. There are no agreements between Tudjman and Milosevic. We have talked with Milosevic because we had to find out what the thief wants.” This is the translation into English from the March 1992 Buchs video that follows here below:
When seen through the politically strategic and copious instances of Mesic’s media statements with the same or similar content (that Tudjman and Milosevic agreed to start the war in 1991 and to divide Bosnia and Herzegovina between Croatia and Serbia), before and after his testimony at the ICTY, one must, absolutely must, question the truth in what he says and said on the matter.
It is utterly regretful that, after confidentiality was lifted from his ICTY testimony, there have been no attempts by the Croatian government to bring the matter to some court proceedings in order to pin down the truths and the lies of Mesic’s claims. After all each of these has affected and will affect Croatia and its people gravely in the future. Perhaps the reason for this lies in the ugly truth where die-hard communists are and were (after Tudjman’s death) occupying the most important positions of government bodies. It is in no way beneficial to wait for years on end in the trust that an Appeal will overturn the verdict of joint criminal enterprise (as it had done in the Croatian Generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac case). Mesic’s words are an immediate and urgent problem Croatia needs to solve for the benefit of its people, not for some argy-bargy historical entry into the journal of the breakup of former Yugoslasvia. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)